Posts Tagged ‘disorder’

Flux and Transformation

February 18, 2018

This is a comment inspired by a video whose URL is at the end of the post, about interconnectivity, and how the human body replaces itself, by absorption and excretion.

There are a lot of processes which demonstrate interconnectivity, however, far more importantly this argument really demonstrates the possible basis of reality is flux, change and transformation.

This is difficult to get, because the whole trend of western metaphysics is towards the idea that reality is eternal and unchanging, whether this is expressed in notions of the unchanging God, or the unchanging archetypes, or the unchanging nature of elementary particles such as atoms. All of these ideas can support interconnectivity, but it is the interconnectivity between things which do not change – at best it is about ‘flow’ of unchanging things.

This view of reality as fixed, seems to lead towards pathological behaviour, as action becomes setting up the perfect structures, the perfect reality and clinging to it. Spirituality is about clutching to peace, or growing in a particular way. Psychology can insist that we should always be happy or self-actualising or something. Politics is about holding to the structures you have pronounced to be the best – at the moment our politics seems devoted to maintaining the power of established corporations and their plutocracy rather than the survival, or gentle transformation, of the world they depend upon.

However, if reality is flux and transformation, then everything changes all the time. Furthermore, given complex systems theory, it seems that everything changes unpredictably in specific; we might be able to predict trends, but we cannot predict specific results. One of the properties specified by what we call ‘reflexivity’ is that if people think they understand the ‘systems’ they are in, then their behaviour changes and the system changes the way it works. This change may not be for the better.

In his book known as ‘metaphysics’, Aristotle points out that Plato accepted the world is flux, but insisted that real reality is fixed, because otherwise it is impossible to speak truth. If everything is constantly changing then you cannot say anything true about them, as they will have changed. Aristotle seems correct in his interpretation of Plato to me, and this is a classic example of a philosopher encountering an uncomfortable position (ie everything is flux) and deciding that because it is uncomfortable it is untrue.

There are other ways around this problem. Firstly it may not be possible to speak absolute truth, but that does not mean we cannot speak and think as accurately as we can (and that means accepting flux, misunderstanding and degrees of uncertainty). We can also speak in terms of flux, talking say of ‘patterns’ rather than structures, and temporary stasis rather than permanent equilibrium, we can give up expectations that we should know how things will turn out, and be prepared to learn from events as they happen. At the moment, if our actions produce bad results we are prone to deny this, and apply our actions more stringently and rigorously.

To reiterate, we are caught in and part of a series of largely unpredictable fluxations. However, if we think that things should be eternal and unchanging, or we think that good things should be unchanging, we attempt to imprison that flux. This generally adds to suffering and increases apparent destruction and disorder. A current example, is the refusal to deal with climate change, and the tendency in Australian and US politics of trying to accelerate and maintain fossil fuels, old styles of concrete, environmental clearing and de-naturing. This is an attempt to cling onto an old order which nowadays produces destruction, and will produce more and more suffering the longer it is clung to.

These points should be obvious to Jungians, as expectation of flux comes out of alchemy, and alchemy is the art and science of transformation. It tells us that the world is constantly transmuting, and that transmutation processes can look messy and chaotic, and that attempts to avoid the realisations of painful stages can be disastrous. It also provides symbolic guides for working with events rather than against events, or providing direction without compulsion. As such alchemy is still the radical way, and difficult for us to really approach, but it may be necessary.


Stages of social collapse….

February 2, 2018

Slightly Edited from “How societies collapse” by Umair Haque

Step one. The economy stagnates, [and social mobility declines. Largely because the elites, (religious, military, or mercantile) monopolise property, markets, and information, and control the government to protect themselves. They keep up, or increase, patterns of behavior that destroy the ecology they depend upon]. Life becomes harder and meaner for most people. The elites will deny the stagnation and destruction because, otherwise, they have admitted that they have failed, or are making things worse: in this way, a social contract and any sense of mutual obligation is broken and never gets repaired. [Note after and during the Great Depression and post WWII, there was an attempt to fix things up, because it seemed obvious that the ruling elites faced revolution if they did not.]

Step two. Ordinary people end up competing more and more viciously to maintain their living standards [as there is no means of co-operation which is allowed. Unions and other cooperative activities are broken or declared to be evil, as they could form challenges to the elites. Competition between each other and loyalty to the elite is lauded as prime virtues.]. Social bonds break and social norms begin to disintegrate.

Step three. People turn to supposed strongmen in the hope of gaining the safety democracy has failed to give them. This is the moment when decline implodes into true collapse. [Most of these ‘strongmen’ will defend the ruling elites while pretending to defend the people or the nation. People can regain valued cooperation by supporting the visible elite through patriotism, nationalism, party loyalty or religious fundamentalism. Things can feel better for some. There is hope.]

Step four. The strongest groups begin to exterminate the weaker perfectly legally. The insiders’ economic portions are kept stable by excluding, or eliminating, whole social groups altogether. [Or the dominant groups intensify application of the techniques which have given them wealth and which destroy life] This fact is kept from the people, officially — but who cannot be aware at some level?

Step five. Because the problem of stagnation is rarely solved by exterminating the weak [or destroying the ecology], the society has doomed itself to forever attempting to take its neighbouring societies harvests’ or falling apart. [In so doing, it generates enemies which can boost internal loyalty, and keep the system going until total collapse.] This is how fascism leads to atrocity, war, and mass murder.


Trump as ‘Radical’

October 10, 2017

I recently asked a person why they thought Trump was working for the benefit of the American people.

Their reply mentioned the employment figures, ending the TPP, and peace in Syria.

I have to agree that the employment figures are nice but it seems that they simply continue the trend established under Obama. So far, I have not heard any evidence which supports the idea that Trump had anything to do with the continuation of this trend or had actually increased the trend. I’d be surprised if, without any large scale legislation, the first six month’s of any president’s office did not express the last six months of their predecessor.
What policies did he implement, or actions did he perform, that have changed things in that six months? without this data it could easily be that he is riding on the results of Obama’s policies?

I won’t object to abandoning the negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership. People on the left have been arguing against the TPP for ages, as being a surrender of national sovereignty to corporate power, especially given the secret courts which would have allowed corporations to challenge wage increases, health restrictions and environmental laws as impinging on ‘free trade’. There has been massive amounts of right wing screaming against these objections. So it was good that Trump has now almost made it an orthodox position. However Clinton argued similarly, and in either case the TPP was not in force, so it was probably not yet impacting, and having only having a minor effect on the economy.

I’m certainly not sure about ceasefire in Syria. The war still seems to be going on as far as I can tell and I’ve recently been reading reports about the Russians complaining about American backed rebels. Trump may have bombed an airport, but that seems to be it, everything else seemed to be giving Putin the free hand he wanted, although Trump denounced the Syrian government as a major enemy in his speech to the UN, implying something should be done, or that he might strike again.

The idea of the ‘deep state’ and the autonomous power of the military, is now recognized by some on the right, thanks to Trump’s rhetoric. But the question remains how much of this is mere rhetoric. The general idea of the “military-industrial complex” has been part of Left orthodoxy for years (I can’t think how long Chomsky has been going on about it), so its only recently that the right has taken it onboard, even if they tend to blame Clinton rather than Bush Jr. for the wars in the middle east. However, the point is that it is the collaboration of corporations and the military that seems to be the prime problem, whereas the usual impression I get from the right is that they think that giving the corporate sector more power and money will solve the problem, which it probably won’t. I don’t know of any evidence that private military contracting has declined under Trump, and his deep commitment to boosting military spending will only increase the deep state and the bonds between government subsidy of corporations and military power.

Trump is threatening Iran and sometimes China, tearing up treaties, and threating nuclear war again (he already threatened that for the middle east during the elections). Nuclear war probably poses a reasonable threat to the safety of the American people, and his threats could increase the possibility of anticipatory strikes. He also seems to oppose disarmament or attempts to contain the spread of nukes. As far as I can tell, by his own account he appears to be continuing the mess in Iraq caused by the Bush Jr Admin ignoring all the advice they received. In March this year he said “our soldiers are fighting like never before” in Iraq and doing really well.

We shall see what wars arise in future, as the idea of combat seems appealing to him.

Mr. Trump also appears to be proposing to continue the Republican project of tax cuts and tax holidays for the wealthy, while removing health care and increasing military spending beyond its current level of excess – usually if military spending increases, the products get used. The money to pay for this spending has to come from somewhere, as so far the Laffer curve has never appeared to kick in and provide those increased tax revenues. We can guess the money will not be taken from corporate subsidy, but there is always a possibility.

Mr. Trump has also continued the Republican project of making it easier for US corporations to pollute and poison people and has abandoned an enquiry into the health effects of coal, not just because we already know coal is bad for people, but because his policies imply he just doesn’t seem to care about people’s ill health if that bad health increases profit. That he won’t tackle the elites producing climate change is to be expected. He is following the old trickle down economics always popular with the wealthy elites, and which might just help him make more as well.

Health care is one of the things the supposed master deal maker cannot apparently negotiate a deal on, even when the Republicans have spent years arguing against the Affordable Health Care Act. Now given the opportunity Trump cannot persuade them to repeal it, let alone make it better as he continues to promise – let us hope he can improve it. He did however make a deal with the Democrats on another issue, perhaps they are less prone to elitism, and they might help improve health care, if that is what he wants.

I still do not understand why a group of billionaires, (some hereditary), high corporate figures and the billionaires who have been supporting them with their media is not an elite, and one not particularly shown to be sympathetic to the people. They even behave as an elite; Trump seems to be the most expensive president in history because he want to go to his elite clubs and resorts. From what I’ve seen Trump also does not appear treat his ordinary workers that well. That there is a war in the wealth elite does not imply that either side has an interest in really supporting the people.

Indeed one of Trump’s problems as one of the hereditary wealthy seems to be that he has always been the boss. He has been able to do what he wants and fire those who disagree or give alternate advice. He is renown for the catch phrase “your fired,” and genuinely seems to have enjoyed uttering it. He has no preparation for working in a field in which he is nominally first among equals – he is part of an elite used to obedience.

We also have the Russia problem. That is not yet proven. But if Clinton had won, and the Russians had supported her covertly, and members of her team had had contacts with them during the election, and Clinton had lied about her business interests in Moscow, then we know that Republicans and the media would be screaming for her impeachment. Trump would probably be demanding her execution for treason. I personally don’t hold it likely that Putin supported Trump because he thought Trump would help the American people, or make America great again… precisely the opposite.

More on Neo-Nazis

September 5, 2017

In the thirties of last century it is possible that there were idealistic Nazis. However that was then, this is a long time afterward.

If you go to a rally carrying swastikas, then you are proclaiming and celebrating your ‘right’ to beat people up and stick them in death camps. You are looking for someone to victimize. You are not celebrating everyone’s right to exist in a civil political discourse.

Given this. Where there are Nazis it is highly probable there will be violence. If there are people prepared to engage in protective violence after they have been attacked then this is probably a good thing. Otherwise you are letting Nazis walk all over everyone. There is no even hand here.

Even handedness is just the usual righteous attempt to crush any resistance to anti-democratic movements.

What do neo-Nazis want?

August 20, 2017

Is it possible to understand what neo-nazis want from the right wing commentariat who are supporting, or excusing, them? A few things, perhaps.

1) Nazis want to be categorised as heroic victims, fighting a justified fight. Consequently those protesting against nazism (who are classified as ‘alt-left’) must have attacked them unprovoked. Even if the neo-nazis were carrying semi-automatic weapons, metal poles and the like and threatening to use them, and the opposition were not. Even if they announced they wanted to kill people in advance of the march. Even if they do kill and maim non Nazis, it is the fault of the others, or the reporting of these events is ‘fake news’. Nazi Violence is excusable while non nazi violence is bad. [The category ‘alt-left’ is useful to neo-nazis and their sympathisers as it implies that opposition to Nazis is itself a form of extremism and has little in common with mainstream US values.]

2) They want to portray their commitment to threatening others for the sin of existing or speaking, as being justified by ‘free speech’ or ‘Tradition’, so as to weaken opposition to them.

3) They want to be seen as defending American Tradition against corruption, but they are only interested in defending the authoritarian parts of that tradition, such as slavery, white supremacy, male supremacy and so on. However, they can also want to argue that the American State is corrupt because it has supported the violence they would approve of, if they did it themselves.

4) They want to categorise anyone who opposes them as corrupt and deserving to be threatened. Good and evil are white and black. So they want everything to be seen in terms of binary opposition. All members of a social category they despise are automatically evil, no matter how many counter examples they might know.

5) They want to portray all forces within the State as corrupt, except for those on their side (white and black again). Nazis want to be seen as struggling to take the State back for the people. But they do not want to challenge real power until they get that control and they attempt to gain control by intimidating non-Nazis and preventing resistance – ‘heroically’ of course.

6) They want supposedly ‘threatening’ people to despise, otherwise they have no energy. Hence they portray “whiteness” as under massive threat from people they categorise as Jews, Blacks, Mexicans and intellectuals, who don’t have that much power and who may not resist too much. They want to see despised people as a disease. They also want their opposition to attack everyone affiliated with them, even if that affiliation is fragile – as that provokes ingroup loyalty.

7) They do not want to blame unequal wealth, or corporate power, for the problems of the US, as that might be too much confrontation.

8) All you have to do to be classified as potentially good in their eyes is to be categorised as ‘white,’ however that is defined, and not support people they classify as ‘non-whites’. They want that category to have wide application and automatically give people privilege to declare others evil and attack them.

9) No matter how fractured, they want the opposition to Nazism to be portrayed as monolithic, coordinated and corrupt, as that then magnifies their own victimhood and strength.

10) One reason they flourish, is because they are going along with general Republican motifs. Everything above has been part of the Pro-Republican media campaigns for years. But this cannot be said, as orthodox Republicans who denounce them are also the enemy. They want to make this a Republican vs Democrat thing, to get ordinary Republicans to ally with them.

11) There probably are people who support some positions espoused by neo-nazis but who are not neo-nazis and will eventually become repelled by the whole worship of blood and violence. It is a strategic mistake not to recognise this possibility, and to drive these people into further alliance with Nazis. This is difficult.

12) They want Jewish people and Black people fighting over who is most threatened. After all, that weakens the opposition.

13) They don’t want to be ignored. But they will heroically smash things up until they are not ignored. So don’t bother ignoring them.

Economics and public discourse

August 6, 2017

Because there appears to be no provision for Comment on Jessica Irvine’s article in the Australian SMH today, about the benefits of economic ‘reforms’ and the decline of economics in schools along with public discourse, here it is….

It is certainly true that people often have a great ignorance of economic history and Jessica Irvine has revealed she is one of them.

Before the “great economic reforms”, even the right wing Coalition party could tend to govern on behalf of everyone, not just the wealthy corporate sector. Wages rose steadily above inflation. Social mobility was real. People born into poverty could work and make it into the middle class, something almost impossible now. Education was largely free to help the mobility and, under Whitlam, became generally available to all adults as well. People could afford houses. Homelessness was rare or voluntary. People could drop out to explore life or art or science or politics or business without fear of being disadvantaged for the rest of their lives. Strong Unions gave people security and clout. People extended their participation in government and so on.

This did cause some fear amongst the establishment; it was something to be curbed – as the ‘proper elites’ were being challenged. People who had previously been quiet about their suppression were becoming economically secure enough to make noise.

Despite Irvine’s claims, we were largely insulated from “international contagions” until the 70s oil shock when the multinational oil companies made a fortune out of crisis, and started funding free market think tanks to promote the power of their class. Since then we have suffered from overseas shocks routinely, the last major one originating in the corruption and stupidity of the dominant players in the US financial and housing market, and which penalised ordinary Americans, not them. Nowadays even the most conservative commentators wonder how we will survive a downturn in even one overseas market (China). Jobs have been exported. Manufacturing has declined. We largely cannot make our own products. Minerals are routinely given away to miners. We ignore, or even encourage ecological collapse if it makes money for the wealthy. Major financial institutions appear to continually suffer from corruption, fraud and scandals, which, before ‘reform’, were rare and penalised. Wages are no longer increasing, and the wealth of society is being redistributed back to the financial elite.

Whatever the intentions of those involved, the ‘great reforms’ have led to an economy in which Plutocracy flourishes, and the rich are nannied and treasured, while ordinary people are abandoned. It is not an improvement, and its success requires that economics is not thought about, that economic history remains distorted and that public discourse becomes trivial. Economics has to mark an ‘unconscious’, as real thinking about the subject, might lead to radical politics and the overturn of ‘free market reforms’. Ignorance is inculcated by dominance.

It is no surprise, in this situation, that real economics is not taught in high school, and it is no surprise that business studies replaces it. Business is were you get wealth and status. Business is, we are told, the important thing, the privileged thing. Naturally students are attracted to it. Naturally subjects based in dispassionate knowledge decline. That is the result of the reforms. We breakdown in an ignorance that supports power, but which leads to breakdown.

On consensus: scientific and otherwise

July 4, 2017

It is always useful to point out that scientific consensus is an agreement amongst scientists in the field about what the evidence implies. So the consensus on climate change means that by far the great majority of climate scientists are persuaded by the evidence that climate change is real and that this real climate change is humanly caused. There is also a theoretical back drop which explains how and why this climate change is occurring, and there is no obvious contradiction or failings in the theory which is leading it to be challenged. Scientists may later modify their positions if the evidence changes. However, it is unlikely they will modify their position to the extent that they argue climate change is not happening, and is not going to produce massive disruption.

We might compare this with the consensus amongst right wing people that free markets are wonderful.

There is no empirical evidence for free market theory – indeed one school of free market theory says no evidence is needed. There is no agreement amongst economists or social theorists that free markets always work or deliver what is promised by their advocates. When applied the theory does not appear to deliver the results promised. It does appear to deliver what cynics say it is meant to deliver (that is more corporate power and more plutocracy). There is no empirical or theoretical consensus. There used to be no political consensus either, Conservatives were well aware that capitalism destroyed all values and traditional social institutions that got in the way of profit. Such real conservatives are no longer common.

Yet the right insist that free markets are the fundamental truth of governance, liberty and prosperity.

Usually the problems with free market theory and its lack of acceptance by independent economists or social theorists is explained away as “left wing bias”, or even “communism” or “conspiracy”. Sometimes it is explained away by saying free market theory is never applied, but in that case we cannot know it will result in goodness when it is applied in full purity. The point is that when it is applied, in the way that it is applied, we get political situations like the present one.

A change in speech away from consensus to persuaded by the evidence, is important because in right wing speak, consensus simply means that people gathered around a table and decided on a position, usually for political reasons as in “there was a consensus amongst Republicans that Obamacare was evil” or “the general consensus amongst evangelical Christians is that the Pope is the anti-Christ” or “the consensus amongst business people is that capitalism is good”. etc.

Persuaded by the evidence takes us back to arguing about the evidence. This is more productive if people are well intentioned, and don’t keep returning to evidence which has been refuted. However in our day, people are being encouraged not to be persuaded by evidence.

Being in complex systems

June 30, 2017

We are entangled in a dangerous situation of our own making, although it was not made deliberately. There is no point to blame other than assuaging personal guilt. We are all responsible, even if some are more responsible than others.

We are entangled in a set of complex systems with no straight lines and few determinable borders. These systems are not systems of firm bounded objects, they are systems of untidy, overlapping flows, with no absolute rigidity; things merge and blend.

These systems may not harmonise and may be subject to abrupt transitions to new states.

in such systems there are no lone individuals. There are no people not interdependent upon others, borrowing and transforming, and being borrowed and transformed.

Flux and chaos is Everywhere.

In these systems, we cannot know the totality of the systems (which compose us), or all of the interconnections, we operate within a swarm of unintended effects. Outcomes are unclear –as it is hard to determine what is the immediate cause of outcomes, as outcomes have multiple interacting causes and may look like they had nothing to do with us. We may not even perceive the outcomes we part-produce.

What we do will have unintended consequences, and we may not be able to recognise them. We also need to know lots of different facts and theories to make it clearer when we might be ignorant.

In these systems, lack of knowing is basic – we cannot accurately or definitively model complex systems (and if we could then acting on the model would change the system). This does not mean there are not degrees of lack. We don’t have to be claim everyone is equally ignorant, or that some ideas are not more accurate than others. Ideas are actions and actions are ideas.

However, given the lack, then we might have to educate towards conscious ignorance. Not unconscious ignorance, or thinking our knowledge is complete.
Knowing what we don’t know, to the extent we can know.

As we are ignorant, the unconscious (systemic and psychological) is everywhere. Our self bleeds into the world. It is not separate from that world. We do not know our self or where it ends, or what we are entangled with. Yet our self seems concrete as do the systems. This concreteness may be an illusion. We think with the world, as part of the world, and in the world. We also feel with the world, as part of the world, and in the world. The world comes to being in us, and we come to being in it. There are no lone individuals. Mind is extended, there are no lone minds. And yet: can we only respect the lone or be moral with the lone? We do not exist without the multiple, and that multiple appears to have no known border; it blends.

AS we are entangled then we (to some undetermined extent) involve the rest of the systems. How then, as we exist and attempt to extricate ourselves from the problems we created, do we involve the non-human without modifying it so that it exists for us? Speaking for the non-human renders it human, and risks erasing it. Yet if the human does not speak for the non-human then it does not exist to the human. This gives us the paradox of representation it represents and distorts at the same time. It may be that in dealing with complex systems and unintended effects we are always dealing with apparent paradox…

One way is to change ourselves (a small action with possible systemic effects). Knowing we do not know.

There is no way out of the systems we are entangled within. We have no option but to work on us or it and in it.


It may be that people have embraced the term ‘complex adaptive systems’ rather than simply ‘complex systems’, because the idea implies teleology and purpose – “to adapt, and adapt well”. The term suggests everything will adapt constructively, rather than that things can adapt destructively, or injuriously. It removes the spectre of disorder and suggests beneficence. It suggests an ordered cosmos once again, with aims and ends.

Communism AND Capitalism

June 22, 2017

The problem is that, usually, communism and capitalism are considered in purely abstract terms. Thus communism is supposed to be a state-free, large scale organization, which is organised around anarcho-democratic principles. Everyone is supposed to have the same rights, and is automatically allocated food, housing etc and helps produce everything for everyone else. The ideal is co-operative. Capitalism is supposed to allocate resources perfectly through the purely unintended economic consequences of selfishness. It can ideally have a state or not have a state depending on who you read. Supposedly ‘free markets’ are vital and bring liberty.

The problem is that though the defenders of each system are well-intentioned, neither works as perfectly as predicted, or has the consequences which are expected. This is quite obvious when you considered how they are formed and that humans are as co-operative as they are selfish and competitive. We are not one or the other. Consequently those who are successful in capitalism co-operate to prevent challenge to their power over the markets and other’s lives, and some people compete in communism to establish their own power and security at the cost of others. Furthermore, freedom is usually associated with plurality of organisations, but both systems tend to crush plurality in favour of their ideal.

The ideal societies, that people usually discuss, do not exist and probably cannot exist.

What we call ‘communism’, so far, has been born in revolution. Consequently there are always active players inside, and outside, the country aiming to get what they consider their rightful power and wealth back. Consequently communists have to use the State and repression to defend themselves, the new society and produce stability for transformation into the new society. They usually end up using the old apparatus which is the one they know, and is already in place. They justify this in terms of transition; its always supposedly temporary. Of course, some people succeed in this framework and gain power and privilege and don’t particularly care about the ordinary people who can be seen as obstacles to the progress of the State and its ideals. Mao appears to have tried to appeal directly to the people to destroy the State mechanisms and the ingrained bureaucrats. This was a dangerous policy it produced the cultural revolution, which was not a great time (to put it very mildly) and the State came back to produce stability and protect those in power. It is also relatively easy for a dictator to take over when you have a strong State, no other organisations which can challenge it, and an external threat.

The problem with capitalism is that it is born in theft and in impoverishment of some people, and leaves them behind to maintain that theft. In the US we have theft of native American lands, and theft of people’s lives in slavery, amongst other things, that create the basis of private property and its inequitable distribution – the stolen wealth does not go entirely to the victorious group. Wealthy people team up to keep the wealth for themselves, and to keep it coming and soon try to take over the State, or start a State, and use that State to defend their privilege and keep ordinary people in their place. They use the State and their own economic power to destroy open non-capitalist markets which could challenge them. The processes they implement consolidate property and shift people into wage labor and dependency. The more important the leaders of business become, the more everything has to be organized as a business, and anything that is not profitable business is automatically classed as not worthwhile. Similarly, everything that adds to business cost, like wages or looking after the ecology we depend upon, is to be destroyed or run down. There are many other problems with capitalism, but the main one is that it ends up being a self-destructive plutocracy – and the more capitalist it becomes, the more this eventuates.

After the second world war, many countries embraced what they called either a ‘mixed economy’ or ‘socialism’ (communists usually insist this is not ‘real socialism’). There were state funded business ventures and private funded ventures. They both kept each other in check. Business could not lower wages too much and accumulated too much profit, and State business had to look to what people wanted to buy. The State and big business were further kept in check by the people and by other flourishing organisations such as Churches, small business associations, unions, universities, legal bodies, the judiciary, returned services organisations, science bodies and so on (I’m sure other people can think of more such organisations which organized themselves in many different ways). This spread power about, so no one faction dominated and people generally prospered. There was a large and growing involvement with ‘people power’. To some extent this arose because some capitalists feared the possibility of communist revolution and thought it better to share some of the wealth they had extracted from the community around to keep them safe.

However, in the mid seventies, in the English speaking world in particular, the corporate sector launched a take over, through funding think tanks, media takeovers, takeover of political units, and general promotion of ideal capitalism. Then European communism fell. There was no longer any fear of revolution, and little opposition to capitalism. The result was what we have now. Capitalism as it is….. Capitalism was to be the only solution, the only value and ordinary people lost power and prosperity. Any other organisations where to be organized along business lines and started praising business. As a result, there is now almost no challenge to big business from anyone and no non-business stories, especially as communism collapsed under its incapacities.

There is close to no question that capitalism will collapse under its incapacities as well – there is nothing challenging it. The issue is whether it takes us all with it.


June 19, 2017

Alchemy was an art of all kinds of transmutation and ‘perfection’: of metals, human bodies, souls, agriculture, pottery, politics and so on.

Those alchemists working on metals, usually attempted to transform Mercury, rather than lead, into gold. The lead is a popular story and I’m not sure when it originated. However, the mercury may not be what we call mercury, it is the ‘Mercury of the Philosophers’ which is something completely different but like mercury…. alchemy is confusing in that way.

As many people are aware, Isaac Newton was an alchemist and spent far more effort on alchemy and biblical interpretation than on physics which was simply a sideline. Some have argued that alchemy was important in supporting Newton with the otherwise unpopular idea of action at a distance. Robert Boyle and lots of other members of the original Royal Society were also alchemists, although Newton was the most traditional of all of them and incredibly secretive about what he was doing – as he was with everything. The others tended to exchange notes and procedures.

I have read of people using nuclear reactors to do transmutation of the elements but ,as everyone notes, that is way too expensive at the moment – although it can be taken as demonstrating that alchemy is possible 🙂

There are alchemists operating today doing the work on metals, although they seem to be more interested in medical alchemy than gold making. There are also those who see alchemy as more of a psychological or spiritual procedure.

This psychologizing has a surprisingly long history but, while it simplifies, it basically arises because alchemists generally did not see a difference between interior work and exterior work. Everything was connected, the change in the alchemist was as important as the change in the material, and the two were linked. Everything was mutable. Psychologising also serves the function of explaining why any particular alchemist did not make the transmutation, and further explained and justified the altered states of consciousness that arise through inhaling and tasting various substances and concentrating on being a human thermostat for weeks on end. It may also be true of course 🙂

However, separating the spirit work into its own domain becomes more usual during and after the 17th century. By the late 19th century it was often considered that work on the spirit was the secret of alchemy, probably because it became increasingly difficult to see spirit and matter as related.

More interestingly, Carl Jung argued that Western alchemical symbols arose as a kind of collective dream, acting as compensations for the kind of psyche produced by official Christianity. If that is the case, then alchemy can, even today, act as a map of psychological transformation – what he called individuation. James Hillman expanded on this, pointing out that alchemical symbols actually give us a very concrete embodied way of seeing, feeling and engaging with psyche.

I personally think that alchemical symbols can give us a way of thinking about transformations of all kinds, and that they are particularly useful for thinking about chaotic, complex and messy processes. But that is a subject for another blog post sometime.